There’s a lot to love about downtown Indianapolis, and that includes exploring the cultural districts by foot, bike, scooter, and even electric cars. We’ve made a list of 5 Cultural Districts you should make a point to visit in the new year and added 5 easy alternatives to the traditional means of transportation.
NUVO readers voted it the Best Neighborhood in the city this past year, and we are inclined to agree. Just southeast of downtown, this funky and decidedly retro district has its roots in a working-class history and attitude that lingers in the pragmatic and honest approach to revitalization that has worked so well over the past few decades. The district has some of the city’s best restaurants, clubs, and art collectives and serves as the heart of Indy’s ever-expanding cultural scene these days.
Forty-five degrees from ordinary is the slogan, and Indy’s most famous diagonal is also the epicenter of the city’s arts and culture. Here is where you’ll find great live theater, public art, boutique shopping, ample food and drink options, and some of the oldest and most original architecture in the city. Venture off Mass Ave for a stroll in the adjacent Chatham Arch or Lockerbie neighborhoods for a true taste of Indy’s oldest neighborhoods.
Adjacent to the White River and encompassing the site of the first cabin built by white settlers within the original city limits, this section of the city encompasses the Central Canal and all of the museums at White River State Park including the Eiteljorg, Indiana State Museum, NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Indianapolis Zoo. Here is where you’ll also find the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn concert venue and Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians.
While the Circle Centre Mall may dominate the downtown shopping landscape, some of Indy’s oldest shops, bars, and restaurants are also located here. There’s something about shopping in an area that’s been the hub of our city’s downtown life since the very beginning that helps the Circle City maintain its unique identity. From the buildings designed by members of the Vonnegut family, to restaurants dating back more than a century, with one of the oldest and most beautiful Union Stations in the country smack-dab in the middle of it all.
Few of us can remember Indiana Avenue in its heyday. At the height of the jazz era, more than 33 clubs and bistros lit up the Avenue. Local artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Noe, Noble Sissle, Erroll “Groundhog” Grandy, and Wes MOntgomery cut their teeth here and went on to make enormous contributions to the jazz world. While the jazz is mostly gone now, African American history and culture remain central to the area thanks to the Walker Theater Center, Crispus Attucks High School, the Urban League, and FreeTown Village.
More than 250 bikes are available to rent around the city at Pacers Bikeshare stations. Purchase a Day Pass for under $6 that allows you unlimited 30-minute rides in a 24-hour period (the bikes must be docked every 30 minutes or additional charges apply). You can also purchase weekly or monthly passes. With 30 docking stations located on or near the downtown Cultural Trail, these gold bikes are a perfect way to get around. Find out more at pacersbikeshare.org
Indy’s controversial electric car-sharing program endures. Buy a one day pass to tool around the city, or invest in a weekly or monthly pass if you want to use the cars regularly. Docking stations were created in some of the city’s prime parking locations, so you get the extra bonus of not having to drive around looking for a parking spot when you get to Fletcher Place or Mass Ave or Fountain Square on a Friday night. Learn more at blue-indy.com
Bus service is Indianapolis is about to get a major upgrade with the completion of the new Red Line BRT which will run between University of Indianapolis and Broad Ripple. Throughout most of the day, buses will arrive every ten minutes, and the Red Line will operate for 20 hours each day, 7 days a week. If we survive the construction, the Red Line will begin service in the Fall of 2019. Find route maps and timetables for current routes and info on the Red Line at indygo.net
Connecting the city’s cultural district’s is the world-class urban bike and pedestrian path known as the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Begun in 2007, the trail makes navigating the city much easier for runners, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts--throwing in some of the city’s best public art installations along the way. Find out more and get a map at indyculturaltrail.org.
Part of the Indy Greenways network, this 10+ mile rail line turned urban trail traverses a remarkable variety of landscapes and neighborhoods north and south, from Carmel to the Fairgrounds, and south to downtown where it connects with the Cultural Trail. Bikers, bladers, runners, and walkers crowd the path in warm weather, but for plenty of great reasons. Learn more at indianatrails.org